Between summer and family plans, ministry, and a significant writing project, I have had difficulty carving out time to post. However, I am now back to looking at why I hold to the view of the end-times called Amillennialism. In my previous posts I explained that this change in stance is what led to my relinquishing my ordination with the Evangelical Free Church Of America, I gave an overview of the main seventeen reasons why I now affirm this position, and I also looked more in depth at the first two of those reasons.
This brings us to the third reason why I am an amillennialist: The only mention of a 1,000 year reign of Jesus Christ in the Bible is found in Revelation 20:1-6. That text is best understood in the context of the book of Revelation to refer to a reign of Christ in heaven with saints who have died—and this during the age between his first and second comings (in other words, right now). In other words, the best understanding of this passage is the one set forth by amillennialists.
Here is what we read in Revelation 20:1-6:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.
4 Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years. (emphasis added)
I emphasized the phrases and clauses that lead people to believe this speaks of a future thousand year reign of Jesus Christ and saints on earth—thus a millennium. However, there are a number of reasons why I believe this instead refers to the reign of Jesus Christ and saints in heaven for a long period of time that spans the entire church—in other words, right now. I will spend several posts dealing with this passage since it is the main millennial passage. Presently I will look at some introductory and contextual reasons for my understanding and then in future posts we will zero in on the six verses themselves.
1. My first reason merely removes an obstacle as it reminds us that the amillennial stance is not new or strange, but has a long history in the Church. “The amillennial understanding of Revelation 20:1-6 as describing the reigning of the souls of deceased believers with Christ in heaven has good standing in the church since the days of Augustine.”
2. Premillennialists commonly assert that the millennium is a reigning of Christ on earth, as well as a reigning of believers with him on earth who have died and been raised, as well as a reigning of believers with him on earth who have not died. However his text says nothing of believers who have not died. The late theologian and scholar, Anthony Hoekema, puts it this way:
The millennium of the [premillennialists] is not the millennium described in Revelation 20:4-6…. When…we read Revelation 20:4-6 in the way [premillennialists] want us to read it, we find in the passage no reference whatever to people still living at the time the millennium begins or to people with “unresurrected bodies”…. We conclude that Revelation 20:4-6 does not describe the millennium of the [premillennialists], even when it is understood as [they] want us to understand. The [premillennial] understanding of the millennium, in other words, is not based on a literal interpretation of this most important passage.
Sam Storms agrees and disputes those who say the premillennial understanding of Revelation 20 is superior because it is literal. He cites Arthur Lewis, The Dark Side Of The Millennium: The Problem Of Evil In Rev. 20:1-10 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 50: “The essential and concrete aspects of the text may not be ‘spiritualized’ out of existence. The martyred and enthroned saints are real, the angel who binds Satan is real, Satan himself is very real, and the wicked nations in revolt against the King are real nations and part of history. The question is not, therefore, which view is the more literal, but which correctly understands the place and purpose of the thousand years.” (emphasis added)
Storms concludes: “The point is simply that the [amillennial version of the] millennium for which I will argue is just as real and literal as the millennium for which the premillennialist contends.”
3. As we will see with greater clarity when we look in detail at the six verses, nothing is said in this passage at all about a reign of Christ and saints on earth. This is rather a reign in heaven.
4. If the main purpose of the millennium has to do with Jews and the nation of Israel, as some premillennialists assert, “is it not passing strange that Revelation 20:4-6 says not a word about the Jews, the nation of Israel, the land of Palestine, or Jerusalem? This would not be so serious if the idea of the restoration of Israel were only an incidental aspect of the millennium. But, according to dispensational [premillennial] teaching, the restoration of Israel is the central purpose of the millennium! It is therefore all the more significant that nothing of this alleged central purpose is mentioned in the only biblical passage which deals directly with Christ’s millennial reign, Revelation 20:4-6.”
5. Finally, we must grasp something about the structure of the book of Revelation itself that has bearing upon the meaning of Revelation 20:1-6. Revelation “consists of seven sections which run parallel to each other, each of which depicts the church and the world [in recurring cycles] from the time of Christ’s first coming to the time of his second coming.” “The seventh section, chapters 20-22, narrates the doom of the dragon (who is Satan), thus completing the description of the overthrow of the enemies of Christ. The final judgment and the final punishment of the wicked are depicted at the end of chapter 20…vv. 11-12, 14-15. In addition, this section describes the final triumph of Christ and his church, and the renewed universe, here called the new heaven and the new earth.
“Note that though these seven sections are parallel to each other, they also reveal a certain amount of [end-times] progress. The last section, for example, takes us further into the future than the other sections. Although the final judgment has already been briefly described in 6:12-17, it is not set forth in full detail until we come to 20:11-15. Though the final joy of the redeemed in the life to come has been hinted at in 7:15-17, it is not until we reach chapter 21 that we find a detailed and elaborate description of the blessedness of life on the new earth (21:1-22:5). Hence this method of interpretation is called progressive parallelism.”
The significance of this structure of Revelation is that each of the cycles shows us a picture of what is happening in the world now—each of the cycles also progressing further as the book unfolds. So, we should not be surprised that Revelation 20:1-6 gives us insight into what is happening now (just like with previous cycles in the book) that goes beyond anything revealed earlier in the book. Nor should we be surprised that the final cycle goes further and gives us a picture of the future climactic new heaven and new earth—one not previously given in Revelation.
Now that we have gained some introductory and contextual perspective on this text, we are ready in our next post to dive into the passage itself, to discover what it says and that its meaning is in line with the amillennial stance.
 Anthony A. Hoekema, The Bible And The Future (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986, repr.), 183.
 Hoekema, The Bible, 220-21.
 Sam Storms, Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative (Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor, Christian Focus, 2013), 428.
 Storms, Kingdom Come, 429.
 Hoekema, The Bible, 222.
 Hoekema, The Bible, 223.
 Hoekema, The Bible, 225-26.
On the clause, “And I saw” (20:1a [see also 19:11, 17, 19; 20:4, 11; 21:1]) which some premillennialists argue suggests chronological treatment in chapters 19-20, Storms, Kingdom Come, 430, writes: “The phrase…appears countless times in Revelation and need only indicate the sequence in which John received the visions. It does not necessarily indicate any historical relation among the many visions themselves.”